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UK electoral commission calls for revision of voting law

The UK Electoral Commission [official website] called Thursday for revisions to the voting laws [report, PDF; press release] after 1,200 voters were unable to cast ballots in the May elections even though they had arrived at the polling station before closing. The report found that local authorities allocated too many voters to certain polling stations and provided many locations with inadequate staffing. The commission stated that in addition to several administrative changes that must occur, the UK election laws should be revised to allow voters who are queued when polls close to cast their ballots. Electoral Commission Chair Jenny Watson expressed her concern with the findings:

Our review found that some people who arrived before polls closed were unable to vote because Returning Officers did not have discretion to let them vote after 10pm. We are calling for urgent changes to electoral law so that any elector who is entitled to vote and who is queuing at a polling station at the close of poll will be allowed to vote. However, Returning Officers in the areas affected did not properly plan for, or react to, polling day problems. That is unacceptable. People in these areas were badly let down and have every right to be angry.
Poll access and voting problems were reported in Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Newcastle, and various parts of London.

Parliamentary elections have been a target for reform in the UK for many years. In February, former UK prime minister Gordon Brown on Tuesday proposed a referendum [JURIST report] to reform the nation's election system. Brown has proposed an alternative voting system in which voters would rank candidates in order of preference. In February 2009, legislation was proposed [JURIST report] that would allow the removal of members of the House of Lords [official website] for improper behavior. In 2007, then-UK prime minister Tony Blair pushed [JURIST report] for a half-elected, half-appointed House of Lords that removed all but 92 House members who still inherit their parliamentary seats. Proposals were initiated in 2006, with the release of a document by a cross-party working group on Lords' reform that hinted at a half-elected, half-appointed House with 450 Lords sitting in the chamber. In 2003, cabinet members rejected [BBC report] five different reform initiatives that varied from an entirely elected to entirely appointed House of Lords.

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